Walker Co. Sheriff's Office confirms 'active investigation' into sex abuse claims at Karolyi Ranch
HOUSTON – The long relationship between USA Gymnastics and the Karolyi Ranch is over.
The organization announced Thursday it has terminated its agreement to have the ranch outside of Huntsville, Texas, serve as the National Training Center for the elite women's gymnastics program. The decision came three days after Olympic champion Simone Biles expressed dismay at having to attend camps there, where she said she was sexually abused by former national team doctor Larry Nassar.
The Walker County Sheriff's Office confirmed to Channel 2 Investigates that there is an "active investigation" into allegations of sexual abuse at the Karoyli Ranch. The Walker County Criminal District Attorney's office told KPRC that it is aware of the allegations, but deferred to the Sheriff’s Office.
Meanwhile, in a Michigan courtroom, more than 70 woman have shared their stories of abuse at Nassar's sentencing hearing.
"Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women, you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time are now a force and you are nothing," said two-time gold medalist Aly Raisman. "I am here to face you, Larry, so you can see I've regained my strength, that I am no longer a victim, I'm a survivor. I am no longer that little girl you met in Australia where you first began grooming and manipulating."
Also speaking out was Olympian Jodryn Wieber, who said those in charge did not do enough to protect those who earned the coveted medals.
"Nobody was protecting us from being taken advantage of. Nobody was concerned that we were being victims of abuse," Wieber said in court.
Prosecutors in the case are asking for up to 125 years in prison.
Kerry Derry, USA Gymnastics president and CEO, said it was her intent to have the women's program leave the ranch when she began her tenure in December.
"Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this," Derry said in a statement. "We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes."
The ranch is the home of former national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and her husband, Bela.
USA Gymnastics initially agreed to buy the training facility in August 2016, but then backed out of the agreement following an investigation into sexual abuse by Nassar, who worked with the organization for nearly three decades before stepping away in 2015.
Several Olympians -- including Biles, Raisman, 2012 Olympic champion Gabby Douglas and two-time medalist McKayla Maroney -- say they were abused by Nassar, with some of the alleged abuse occurring at the facility.
Biles, who has returned to training after winning five medals at the 2016 Olympics, said in a statement released Monday that "it is impossibly difficult" to attend team camps at the ranch."
"It breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused," Biles said in a statement.
Nassar has already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography crimes and is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to molesting girls at Michigan State University and his home. Maroney said in a victim's statement at Nassar's sentencing hearing on Thursday that he "left scars on my psyche that may never go away."
Derry said the organization is exploring alternate sites until a permanent location is determined. USA Gymnastics canceled a team camp scheduled for later this month.
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